Singapore retail sales fall at steepest pace in 12 years as COVID-19 deters shoppers

Singapore retail sales fall at steepest pace in 12 years as COVID-19 deters shoppers

A man sits on a bench safe distancing Marina Bay Singapore
A man sits on a bench with areas marked off for safe distancing in Marina Bay, Singapore on Apr 2, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Singapore's retail sales in February fell at the steepest pace in more than 12 years on a month-on-month basis as consumption fell across categories such as apparel and cosmetics due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, retail sales declined 8.9 per cent in February from the previous month, data from the Department of Statistics (SingStat) showed on Friday (Apr 3). This is the biggest drop since July 2007.

Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales declined 11.2 per cent on a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis.

"The decrease is mainly attributed to larger year-on-year declines in retail industries selling discretionary items, due to the decline in tourist arrivals and lower domestic consumption as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak," said SingStat.

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Year-on-year, retail sales fell 8.6 per cent. Excluding motor vehicles, the figure was -10.2 per cent.

Retail sales for most segments fell, with the exception of supermarkets, petrol service stations, motor vehicles and furniture.

On a monthly basis, apparel and footwear took the largest hit at -34.5 per cent, followed by watches and jewellery at -30.7 per cent and department stores at -23.8 per cent. 

Restaurants and food caterers also recorded declines in sales of 33.9 per cent and 24.8 per cent respectively compared to the previous month, while sales at fast food outlets grew 3.2 per cent.

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The estimated total retail sales value in February was about S$3.1 billion. Of these, online retail sales made up an estimated 7.4 per cent.

Online retail sales of the computer and telecommunications equipment, furniture and household equipment industries and supermarkets and hypermarkets made up 30.4 per cent, 14 per cent and 8.5 per cent of the total sales of their respective industry.

Singapore reported its fifth death on Friday, an 86-year-old Singaporean woman who was a resident at Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home at 1 Thomson Lane.

As of Thursday, Singapore has reported 1,049 infections, with new clusters emerging at Mustafa Centre, a construction site at Maxwell MRT station and Keppel Shipyard.

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Singapore authorities have stressed the importance of safe distancing amid a rise in the number of locally transmitted and unlinked cases of COVID-19.

Authorities had last week announced that gatherings outside school and work will be limited to a maximum of 10 people until Apr 30 this year. The duration of the stricter measures may be extended if the situation here does not improve.

All centre-based tuition and enrichment classes have been suspended, along with all religious services and congregations.

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Owners of premises and event organisers must ensure that non-fixed seating is at least 1m away from any other seat at all times. If seats are fixed to the floor, alternate seats need to be demarcated as a seat not to be occupied. 

In public places where queues are formed, such as at retail stores or supermarkets, individuals need to stand 1m apart in the queue. 

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Source: Reuters/CNA/aj

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